Ride for a Brighter Tomorrow – This was exactly the motto we had in mind when we launched the giro del gelato 2021 in support of UNICEF and with the help of the family broadcaster Radio Teddy. The concept: we donate 10 cents for every kilometre you ride. And so many of you got pedalling, pronto! The total distance tracked all over the world during our six-week campaign amounted to 835,377.42 kilometres. All this bike riding equated to 83,537.74 euros for our good cause. Your incredible effort really impressed us so we decided to round up the figure to match our initial target of 100,000 euros, which we have now handed over to UNICEF Austria. The donation will go towards UNICEF's aid project WASH, which provides children and families in Bangladesh with a healthier future.
“A huge THANK YOU to everyone that took part in the giro del gelato 2021. You haven’t just spent your summer being active in one of the greatest ways – on a bike, of course – you have also been active in supporting the lives of children and families in Bangladesh,” says woom founder Christian Bezdeka. “As a business, we’ve done very well in recent months. The pandemic showed us how important sustainable and healthy mobility is to our customers. By donating to the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF), we now want to give back to those who have been particularly badly affected by Covid-19.”
Another big round of applause for everyone that took part in the giro del gelato comes from Christoph Jünger, the executive director of the Austrian National Committee for UNICEF: “Bangladesh is one of the world’s poorest countries. Out of the 170 million people living in Bangladesh, around 40% are children whose lives are a daily battle against poverty, hunger, exploitation, and life-threatening natural disasters. It's a situation that has significantly worsened due to the pandemic. In many schools, children have no opportunity to wash their hands to prevent spreading infections – this is where the WASH program comes in."
Where will the donation go?
For every kilometre ridden by the woom community as well as our friends and co-campaigners at Bike Citizens, Maloja Pushbikers and the KidsBikeTrophy, we are putting forward ten cents to support the WASH project run by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. This particular aid project gives children and their families access to Water, Sanitation facilities, and Hygiene services, which is how the project got its name: WASH. Its work is even more important now because it helps protect the people of Bangladesh from further infection by the coronavirus and helps to limits its spread.
Why is it so important that children and families in Bangladesh get help now?
Bangladesh is one of the world's poorest countries. It has a population of 170 million. 40 percent of the population are children. 30 percent live in slums. Life is a daily battle against poverty, hunger, exploitation and life-threatening natural disasters like hurricanes and floods.
Despite its own challenging situation, Bangladesh has taken in more than 875,000 Rohingya refugees, forced to flee neighbouring Myanmar due to repression and persecution.
Bangladesh's economic situation has improved in recent years. Its economy grew by just under 8 percent in 2018, one of the best figures in the world. The growth is partly due to the up-and-coming export economy and aided by the steadily growing local demand and corporate investments.
Things have been looking positive as the amount of young people that are getting a good education at universities and technical colleges is slowly but surely on the rise. This, however, is dependent on children and young people being able to go to school – and to do that, they need to be healthy.
The coronavirus pandemic has put the brakes on this positive trend. In a country with the world's highest population density, it's almost impossible to keep your distance. Residents of slums are particularly vulnerable here, where people live crammed into small spaces. In Dhaka, which is one of the world's fastest growing metropolises, around 1.1 million of its 9 million residents live in slums.
Clean water and hygiene are fundamental for a healthy life
The COVID-19 pandemic has emphatically reminded us how important it is to regularly wash your hands. However, more than half of the world's population do not have access to safe sanitation facilities. Three billion people in the world – including hundreds of millions of school children – do not have access to hand-washing facilities with soap. Almost 675 million people do not have access to toilet facilities.
The worst-affected are people living in rural areas, city slums, areas that are prone to natural disasters, and low-income countries. The effects of unsafe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene provisions can be fatal for children. More than 700 children under the age of 5 die on a daily basis from diarrhoeal infections linked to poor access to safe water and sanitation. In areas facing conflict, the likelihood of a child dying from diarrhoeal diseases is almost 20 times higher than the chance of dying in direct violence.
This is exactly what the WASH aid project led by the United Nations children's fund UNICEF are working to eradicate: their aim is to provide people with clean water, sanitation facilities and basic hygiene practices.
What does hand-washing have to do with education?
"Covid-19 has meant children across the globe have not been able to go to school. Remember that schools aren't just a place for learning, they're often the only chance a child has for a meal and access to clean, running water. Homeschooling – in the sense that we know it – doesn't exist everywhere else. And any progress that has been made to support children over recent decades has been set back, or even nullified in this period. Take the rising number of child marriages, for example," continues Christoph Jünger, expanding on the situation in Bangladesh. "The effects of the crisis – particularly in terms of children and young people's education – will have a serious impact on the lives of girls and boys in Bangladesh. If we do not act now, these consequences could be much worse for children in the long-term."
Water and good hygiene are vital when it comes to preventing the spread of infectious diseases and ensuring that children can live long, healthy lives. They are fundamental in preventing children from missing school due to illness – and better education leads to better opportunities for the rest of their later lives.
"In many schools children do not have the possibility to wash their hands as a preventative measure against infections – this is where the WASH programme comes in," continues Jünger. "For just 177 US dollars, we can buy 100 cans of powdered bleach to disinfect facilities. With around 380 dollars, we can hold hygiene training workshops for 90 mothers and daughters, and with around 860 US dollars, we can fund one of 40 handwashing stations that supply around 3,000 people with running water."
The focus on easily available hygiene measures is particularly important, as vaccines against COVID-19 are rolling out very slowly there. Recent figures have shown that 11,500 shots of the vaccine are processed daily. If the country continues at this rate of vaccinations, it will take another 2,828 days – or 7.7 years – until a further 10% of the population receive a shot.
Water stations will be repaired
With the giro del gelato, woom is giving its support to the project in Dhaka to ensure that existing water stations are repaired, and new hand-washing stations can be installed. The stations allow up to 12,500 people to wash their hands with clean water. According to experts, mobile sanitation facilities are a major asset in fighting the pandemic at a local level. UNICEF's team also make sure that the water quality is tested and that disinfectants are available.
What's more, children – girls and their mothers, in particular – receive education on hygiene so that they remain healthy. "Through the provision of this education we make sure that women and girls have the relevant knowledge on how to protect themselves from infections. This is really important, both for the current crisis and in the long-term for the rest of their lives," says Jünger.
Access to clean water is every child's right
"Every child has the right to grow up in a safe and clean environment. Access to clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices won't just ensure that children are healthier, but also that they'll get more opportunities later on in life," adds woom founder Christian Bezdeka, "Even making a small contribution to this really means a lot to us."
To all you keen cyclists out there: THANK YOU x 835,377.42 for taking part and donating your distances!